For Asanka Gurusinha, Sri Lanka’s inability to dismiss Zimbabwe by the end of the first day, after having them 96 for 4 at lunch, was partly owed to a significant slowing of the R Premadasa Stadium pitch. Gurusinha, the team’s cricket manager, suggested the slow bowlers’ menace dived substantially after the first break.
“The feedback I got from the players was that there was moisture in the morning, so the track did turn a bit, and the ball did a little bit,” Gurusinha said. “After lunch it settled down so much, and even now, when I spoke to them, they said the ball comes slow off the wicket, and doesn’t do anything. It’s more like an old Premadasa wicket.”
Zimbabwe scored 117 for the loss of two batsmen in the afternoon session, and 132 for the loss of a further two wickets in the evening. The run rate across both those sessions was four, and the unbeaten ninth-wicket partnership was especially brisk, with 62 runs coming off 97 deliveries.
“We did bowl some loose stuff,” Gurusinha said. “We were lucky to have Rangana Herath there, but even to him they had time to get on the back foot and pull him, because it wasn’t coming on at the pace we were expecting. Our discussion at lunch was that we had done well in that first session to take four.
“In the second session, we actually discussed that this was a tough session, because the wicket was settling down, and we’ve got to contain as well. To me Zimbabwe got off easy a little in that session. They got some runs, as well as us getting wickets.”
Gurusinha put the seamers’ inability to take more than one wicket between them in the day down to conditions, with little seam or bounce on offer. Among the other disappointments for Sri Lanka was the bowling of Dilruwan Perera, the offspinner. He took the wicket of Sean Williams in the morning, but rarely threatened in the second and third sessions, and finished with 1 for 86.
“Dilruwan I don’t think he was his normal self, and that might be because he hasn’t played matches recently,” Gurusinha said. “I’m hoping by the second innings he will get that loop we’re used to seeing, and build that partnership.
“We also expected a little more bounce than this. That bounce is not that good. It’s a bit low bounce. As soon as that happens, the spinners will also struggle. People like Rangana and Dilruwan will do well if there was a little bit of bounce on the wicket as a spinner, but we’ve got to work hard on these tracks and do well.”
Gurusinha said Sri Lanka would also have batted if they had won the toss. Zimbabwe bat deep in this match. Their recognised batsmen go down to No. 8, but even their No. 10 batsman – Donald Tiripano – has a first-class hundred. When it comes time for Sri Lanka to bat, the hosts will also hope their long lineup pays off.
“The way the track is playing, I’m expecting our batsmen also to put their heads down and bat long,” Gurusinha said. “Especially in the last session today you saw there were no demons on the wicket. It was easy to play shots and even their no. 10 was batting well. That showed there was enough time to play the shots. The batsmen will have to play their shots and play normal cricket. But the first thing is to get those last two wickets in the first hour or half hour tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Craig Ervine agreed with Gurusinha that the pitch became easier to bat on, but was unsatisfied by the absence of a big score from his teammates. After Ervine’s 151, the highest score for Zimbabwe was 36, by Sikander Raza and Malcolm Waller. Zimbabwe’s No. 10 Donald Tiripano is still unbeaten on 24, however.
“It was disappointing to have only one fifty-plus score,” Ervine said. “Guys did get in, but gave couple of wickets away. That’s the way it goes and we put that behind us and come back tomorrow. Donald can bat and he can stick around. I have lot of faith in him.”
Ervine described his five-and-a-half hour stay at the crease as exhausting, thanks to Colombo’s heat and humidity. However, his work was made easier by a flattening surface. “At the start, the wicket was little bit damp. But once it dried out, it’s nice wicket to bat on. We wanted a good rate throughout the day.”